Heed your dreams
TorahParshat Miketz

Heed your dreams

Genesis 41:1 – 44:17

I was hoping that Sigmund Freud’s birthday — and therefore his bar mitzvah — coincided with this week’s Torah portion, but it doesn’t. (He was born on May 6, 1856.) What a d’var Torah that would have been! As the founder of psychotherapy, he would have had a field day with both the Torah portion and haftarah portion, even as a young man.

By the time of this week’s Torah portion, Joseph has already dreamed his dreams — sun, moon, stars and stalks of wheat — all signifying that he would rule over his siblings and parents. Now it is Pharaoh’s turn. He dreams first of cows and then
of corn, both portending of years of plenty followed by years of scarcity, which only Joseph, a lowly servant in jail, could interpret for Egypt’s powerful ruler.

The haftarah portion — the section from Prophets connected to this week’s Torah portion — begins with King Solomon also awakening after a dream. After centering himself, he gets back to work. What comes next is well known: Two women show up with a single baby, each having just given birth and each claiming this baby is their own, since one of their babies had died and the mother switched her dead baby for the living one. The king creates what has become known as a “Solomonic” test to figure out who is the real mother. He makes the shocking declaration that the baby should be cut in half — with half given to each mother — which leads one woman to be ready to give the baby up rather than have it slaughtered. Through his ingenious test, he determines her to be the real mother. Case solved.

Both the Torah and haftarah portion begin with a ruler waking up from their dream. Had we read what preceded, we would have seen that in his dream, Solomon had requested and received divine wisdom to judge the nation (I Kings 3:9).

What do you do after a powerful dream? Do you think about it? Try to forget it? Tell someone? What did Pharaoh do? He summoned an interpreter.

What did King Solomon do? He went to Jerusalem, stood before the Ark of the Covenant, sacrificed burnt offerings and offerings of well-being, and then made a banquet for all his courtiers. He certainly was productive!

But let’s look closely: He moved himself to a place of shalem, wholeness, and specifically to the spot housing the Ten Commandments. He reached out to God, whom he served through offerings, and the people who served him through a banquet. And then he got to work.

Whether dreams are uplifting or upsetting, let us hear our subconscious voice speaking. Once we center ourselves as did Solomon, we can choose to dismiss the contents or delve into them, both reactions of wisdom and discernment.

Given that dreams were one way that Prophets heard God’s voice (Numbers 12:6), let us not dismiss the importance of dreams. PJC

Rabbi Barbara AB Symons is the rabbi of Temple David. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Clergy

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